Your Walk Westward toward Sunset by Tom Sheehan
It is brittle now, the remembering, how we drove you east with your backpack like a totem in the rear seat, so that you could walk westerly across the continent’s spine, across the sum of all the provinces, through places you had been before, and we had been, and the Cree and the Owlcreek bear and wolves envisioned when night screams upwind, stars loosing their valid phantoms.
Now it seems the ready truth that juxtaposition is just a matter of indifference, because we have all been where we are going, into selves, shadows, odd shining, all those places the mind occupies, or the heart, or a lung at exercise. You had already passed places you would come into when we knew your hailing us down, thumb a pennant, face a roadside flag halting our pell-mell island rush.
To go westerly, to walk across the world’s arching top, you said you had to go east, to know Atlantic salt, kelp girding rocks at anchor, clams sucking the earth down, to be at ritual with Europe’s ocean itself, that mindless sea of lonely buoy bells arguing their whereabouts in the miseries of fog, singular as canyon coyote.
We promised you holy water at Tormentine, reaching place of The Maritimes, a fist-thrust ready for Two-Boat Irish Islanders, Cavendish’s soft sand, holy trough of journey, wetting place, publican’s house of the first order, drinks hale and dark and well met and Atlantic ripe as if everything the bog’s known the drink has.
It’s more apparent now, after you moved outbound, or inward on the continent, trailing yourself, dreams, through wild Nations once ringing one another, your journey’s endless. Nine years at it, horizons loose on eternity, trails blind-ending in a destiny of canyons too deep to be heard, and your mail comes scattered like echoes, scarred horseshoes clanging against stakes in twilight campgrounds, not often enough or soon enough or long enough, only soft where your hand touches hide, hair, heart caught out on the trail, wire-snipped, hungry, heavy on the skewers you rack out of young spruce.
Out of jail, divinity school, bayonet battalion, icehouse but only in hard winters, asking Atlantic blessing for your march into darkness and light, we freed you into flight. You have passed yourself as we have, heading out to go back, up to go down, away from home just to get home. Are you this way even now, windward, wayward, free as the mighty falcon on the mystery of a thermal, passing through yourself?
You go where the elk has been, noble Blackfoot of the Canadas, beaver endless in palatial gnawing, all that has gone before your great assault, coincident, harmonic, knowing that matter does not lose out, cannot be destroyed, but lingers for your touching in one form or another, at cave mouth, closet canyon, perhaps now only falling as sound beneath stars you count as friends and confidants. Why is your mail ferocious years apart in arrival? You manage hotels, prepare salads, set great roasts for their timing, publish a book on mushrooms just to fill your pack anew and walk on again, alone, over Canada’s high backbone, to the islands’ ocean, the blue font you might never be blessed in. Nine years at it! Like Troy counting downward to itself: immense, imponderable, but there.
A year now since your last card, Plains-high, August, a new book started, but no topic said, one hand cast in spruce you cut with the other hand, your dog swallowed by a mountain, one night of loving as a missionary under the Pole Star and canvas by a forgotten road coming from nowhere.
We wonder, my friend, if you are still walking, if you breathe, if you touch the Pacific will Atlantic ritual be remembered as we remember it: high-salted air rich as sin, wind-driven like the final broom, gulls at swift havoc, at sea a ship threatening disappearance, above it all a buoy bell begging to be heard, and our eyes on the back of your head.
That other landfall
on Equator’s quick needle
bamboo’s vast jungle
One day, I was on the grounds and saw a tower in the distance. Like a mountain in the desert the tower appeared closer than it actually was. It took many days and raises in the Sherpa’s (an Iberian Ibex named Aristotle) salary to reach the tower. Lo and behold the great tower was composed of Tom Sheehan Stories. Aristotle shook his head and informed me that there was no way to top the tower, and that we should just admire it for its greatness.
The tower continues to grow and one should expect that this growth will continue for some time to come. There is no finer professional than Tom Sheehan, and the best we can do to salute yet another achievement is to visit the tower and examine it piece by piece.
I often wonder, and we have never asked, what it was that prompted Tom Sheehan to send us his work. The muses and internet mages were smiling on us that day, anyway. Right from the very first time we knew that this was a writer of quality. What we have come to appreciate so much since then is his professionalism and wonderful gentlemanly nature. In a world and an environment where much is not as kind as it could be, to interact with someone like Tom is a real privilege. His work and output is amazing, and though some of his submissions haven’t been quite right for us it is all presented beautifully and the reading of it is a bright spot on any day. Thank you Tom for sticking with us all this time and allowing us to read your wonderful words. Long may it continue.
It has been and still is my pleasure to be on the same site as Tom Sheehan. My admiration for the man is indescribable, I am in awe of his talent, his productivity but more so his respect and humanity.
If I am ever able to even write a quarter of the amount of words he has, I’ll be a happy man. I will bow my head though as I will never reach his quality!
One hundred and fifty stories on the one site is an achievement that very few will ever get near. Many congratulations Tom and thank you for gracing our site and my life.
All the very best my fine friend.